The following is a guest post from blogger Deborah Adams. Faithful Fight Back Friday readers may recognize her as Deb from Notes From Jesus Creek. Here, she’s writing about food advertising and its effects on children. Thanks, Deb!
A few days ago I was standing in line at the post office, just behind a young mother and her daughter. The little girl looked to be about 2 years old – she was still speaking that language that only a mom can understand. She was a chubby little blonde child, wearing a tee shirt that promoted Coca Cola. As I watched her, she was happily smearing a chocolate bar all over her face.
It was 9 o’clock in the morning, by the way. So, I’m not sure whether this little girl was eating her breakfast or a mid-morning snack. As she alternately licked her candy bar and babbled at her mother, I realized that this was a child who already knows how to plan ahead to her next meal; the one word coming out of her chocolate-coated mouth that I could understand clearly was ‘McDonald’s.’
The food industry spends billions of dollars each year on child seduction, with carefully-conceived advertising directed specifically at children. Just like drug dealers, fast food and snack food purveyors understand the importance of hooking them young and building life-long, loyal customers for their products. Eric Schlosser writes in his eye-opening book Fast Food Nation “…market research has found that children often recognize a brand logo before they can recognize their own name.”
We parents are at a distinct disadvantage here because we are every bit as susceptible to advertising as our babies are, and we are often completely oblivious to the powerful effect it has on us. With that little girl at the post office still on my mind, I started paying closer attention to the way the food industry surrounds us with messages, both subliminal and blatant. In just a few hours my mind was reeling!
On my short drive home, I passed a dozen fast-food outlets with their big signs and banners suggesting I take advantage of incredible deals on inedible meals. Throughout the day, magazines and television pushed sugary, fat-laden ‘treats’ at me; a couple of websites offered me cute little cartoon representatives encouraging me to indulge in nutrition-free, artificially colored and flavored substances guaranteed to induce a state of bliss. If I’d gone into a school, I could have gotten my fix from vending machines in the hallway.
If we replace ‘junk food’ with ‘meth,’ the problem is suddenly much more obvious. But kids living on colas and sugar are in just as much danger. They are subject to health problems like high blood pressure, adult-onset diabetes, heart disease, and a host of other crippling ailments at ages as young as that little girl in the post office. Just because Twinkies are legal doesn’t mean they’re safe.
But how is a conscientious parent supposed to go up against the giants of advertising? I’m not sure we can win this battle, but I think it has to start with truth. That’s something you can’t buy in a package, but it’s the only way to expose the predators who target our children.
First of all, we have to initiate and maintain a lifestyle that teaches by example. We parents must be vigilant in watching for the marketing techniques that reel us in. We have to be aware of our own purchasing behavior, and we have to explain it to our kids. Make them aware of what advertising is all about, and help them understand that the commercials are meant to sell, sell, sell, with no concern for the consumer’s well-being.
We have to turn off the television, where the youngest children are first taught to desire double-cheeseburgers and super-fries. At the very least, we can turn off the commercial channels and stick to public television programming.
We can take our little ones shopping with us and spend time explaining to them exactly why the fruit and produce section is more important than the impulse buys at checkout.
Just as in our efforts to keep our kids safe from drugs and alcohol, we have to teach them early how to make wise decisions about the importance of proper nutrition and their own health. By the time we send them off to day care, the ad pushers have already staked out our street corners and playgrounds, ready to sell junk food to our babies.
Food Renegades are already on the front line of this war to preserve real food because we know it’s better for us, for our children, and for our planet. Now we have to recognize that we are also fighting against an enemy that shamelessly targets young minds, and we must be vigilant in preparing those young minds to defend themselves.
If you’re hunting for a way to help your kids understand Nutrition from a decidedly Real Food perspective, be sure to check out Real Food Nutrition & Health. Right now, everyone who buys a copy also receives the Recommended Book List For Further Reading. The elementary school aged version will be released later this month!
And thanks again, Deb! Deborah Adams writes on the topics of natural health, healthcare, online nursing, education, etc. Outside of writing, she enjoys gardening and playing with her chickens.
(photo by mait)